"The War at Home: The Untold History of Class War in the United States is a series that traverses the history of the labor movement and state repression in the United States. The series looks at history through the lens of the working class, from the Haymarket massacre in Chicago in 1886 to the Jim Crow spread in Louisiana, to the Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy of 1911, to the violent strikes and police raids of the Great Depression, and beyond. The series makes the connection between the purging of radicals from unions and the decline of union power in the 1920s, towards the 1960s and beyond.
Statement from the filmmaker, Scott Noble:
I have just released the first entry in my new documentary series, "The War at Home." Part I is titled Rebellion and can be viewed [above] . Part II, Blacklist, [is also now released]. I am conducting a fundraiser for Part III here.
Rebellion is essentially a re-imagining of my Plutocracy series. For those who missed it, Plutocracy is a five-part series focussing primarily on American political repression in the mid-to-late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is very broad-based, covering everything from Shay’s Rebellion to Reconstruction to eugenics to the development of the modern police. It is a nine-hour series.
Although Plutocracy did well overall — better than I expected, in fact — I have no illusions about the numbers of ordinary people willing to watch a nine hour series focussing on events that mostly occurred over a century ago. With Rebellion, I decided to create what amounts to an abridged version, with a razor-sharp focus on class struggle and the (then) emergent American empire (one of the themes of the new series is the interplay between violence abroad and violence at home). Naturally I had to paint in much broader strokes.
Rebellion offers an excellent way of introducing people not only to the rich labor history of the United States but to the inordinately violent and repressive ways in which the American state and private industry dealt with these early organizing efforts. Which is not to say it is merely a tale of oppression. As in most of my films I also highlight stories of inspiration and the triumph of ordinary people.
One of the complaints I have about most Cold War documentaries is that they simply take for granted that “fear of communism” and the Soviet Union in particular were the primary motivating factors behind American military interventions and domestic repression after WWII. In fact, these developments are much better explained through the concepts of imperialism and class struggle. Thus I decided that an abridgment of Plutocracy was the ideal way of starting the new series. Rebellion is designed to put the events that follow in their proper context (most of the series will focus on the mid to late 20th century, though I’m also hoping to include a final entry dealing with current events).
Rebellion is not merely a copy and paste job of Plutocracy, as I had to essentially create everything from scratch; there is also an abundance of new imagery, video, music etc.
The film begins with the Haymarket bombing of 1886 and ends with the sit-down strike wave of the late 1930’s — ie the peak of American labor militancy. There are some additional events included that are not covered in Plutocracy, including the Magonista Rebellion of 1911 (the short-lived anarchist uprising in Baja); a more thorough analysis of how the Industrial Workers of the World aka the Wobblies were crushed during WWI and the Red Scare of 1917-1920 (notably by falsely portraying them as “enemy agents” colluding with imperial Germany, deportation, and later via “criminal syndicalism” laws); attempts by figures like Emma Goldman to outlaw conscription in the United States; the ironic origins of Wall Street as a slave market; the great strikes of 1919, including the great steel strike; and propaganda campaigns designed to popularize the alleged threat of “domestic Bolshevism.”
The idea of “domestic Bolshevism” (or some variant thereof) would become the primary propaganda theme from the late thirties all the way up to the late 70’s, and is increasingly re-emerging today.
Part II of the series, to be released in one week, covers the years 1936 - 1956 — arguably the most important two decades in modern American history. I'll outline the contents of Part II when it is released.
The entry for which I'm conducting this fundraiser will cover the years 1956 to (I suspect) 1967, should it be financed. It will not be your typical documentary on the 1960’s. I’m quite excited about finally taking on that tumultuous decade and all of its controversies. Since I have no corporate or foundation backing, I have no need to pull my punches. In the American context at least (but in many ways globally) the current, awful situation is often compared to two periods: the great depression and the sixties/seventies. So it’s an ideal time to revisit those eras and see what lessons we can learn from them.
I recently watched Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States and though I enjoyed it, I was somewhat disappointed as it was mostly about foreign policy and wasn’t all that “untold.” The War at Home will be the real untold history of the United States, and here is the first entry.